Monday, December 15, 2008

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva selected Thai PM

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was selected as Thailand's third prime minister in as many months on Monday, taking control with a slender majority in parliament and an economy teetering on the brink of recession.

In a sign of the trouble in store for the Oxford-educated economist, at least 200 supporters of the previous administration, sacked by the courts two weeks ago, blocked access to parliament and smashed windows of cars carrying MPs who had backed him.

Chanting "Abhisit, army nominee", the red-shirted demonstrators denounced the 44-year-old as a front man for the military, which ousted elected leader Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 and which has been accused of political meddling ever since.

Abhisit won support from 235 MPs from his Democrat party and a range of others, including a breakaway faction of the Puea Thai party that had backed Thaksin, now convicted of graft and in exile. He needed 219 votes to become prime minister.

His slender majority suggests the turmoil of the last three years will continue, especially when the economy, which depends on exports and tourism, feels the full force of the global slowdown and the recent week-long blockade of Bangkok's airports by royalist, anti-Thaksin protesters.

"Very soon, the impact of the global economic crisis will be felt more seriously in Thailand. The new PM needs to prepare immediately for that," Sompop Manarungsan of Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University said.

Outgoing Finance Minister Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech has forecast the economy would shrink 0.5-1.0 percent in the first quarter of 2009 from a year earlier and post no growth in the second, putting it on the brink of recession.

Abhisit says reviving growth through increased government spending will be his priority, although it remains to be seen where he will get the money from.

At a news conference immediately after the vote, Abhisit said he would not outline any ideas or initiatives until he was sworn in by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

He has suggested there could be some reallocation of regional spending, but that would be sure to outrage voters in the populous north and northeast, where a love of Thaksin and loathing of Abhisit runs deep.

He was once forced to flee the stage at a Democrat rally in the northern city of Chiang Mai under a barrage of rotten vegetables.


Nor is Thaksin completely out of the picture.

On Saturday, the telecoms billionaire made a recorded video address to 40,000 supporters at a Bangkok sports stadium, calling for national reconciliation and urging the military not to meddle in Monday's parliamentary vote.

"May all sides take one step back and respect the results," he said. "Please don't use any institution to intervene. Just let the country move forward. Don't make people suffer more."

His supporters have accused the military of launching a "silent coup" by claiming to have royal backing and pushing small parties in the previous government to form a Democrat-led government, a charge the army has denied.

A member of Thaksin's inner circle told Reuters last week the gloom hanging over the country may well make Abhisit's win a Pyrrhic victory, destroying his image among businessmen and Bangkok's middle classes as a safe pair of hands on the economic tiller.

(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan and Darren Schuettler)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

Friday, December 12, 2008

Buffon seeks £250k-a-week for Man City move

Manchester City will have to pay Gianluigi Buffon wages of £250,000-a-week to prise the world's best goalkeeper away from Juventus.

The Daily Mail claim that City would also have to pay a transfer fee of £20 million for the 30-year-old Italian international.

The super-expensive transfer is thought to be a 'statement signing' by the club's new billionaire owners, the Abu Dhabi royal family, who shocked football by signing Robinho during the summer transfer window.

City manager Mark Hughes is believed to have endorsed the transfer - on condition Buffon proves his fitness after missing a month of Serie A action with a groin injury - and would welcome the World Cup winner into his squad.

However, last month Buffon, who currently earns £90,000-a-week at the Stadio Olimpico, dismissed City as a fantasy football club.

"Manchester City? I played fantasy football when I was young, now I only like to think about real football," he told


Monday, December 8, 2008

Obama: Economy to get worse before it improves

US President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday the economy will get worse before it gets better, pledged a recovery plan "equal to the task" and warned lawmakers that the days of pork barrel spending are over.

Less than six weeks before his inauguration, Obama declined to say how large an economic stimulus plan he envisions. He said his blueprint for recovery will include help for homeowners facing foreclosure on their mortgages if President George W. Bush has not acted by Inauguration Day, Jan 20.

"We've got to provide a blood infusion to the patient right now to make sure that the patient is stabilised. And that means that we can't worry short term about the deficit. We've got to make sure that the economic stimulus plan is large enough to get the economy moving," he said.

Obama made his comments on NBC's "Meet the Press," in his most extensive interview since winning the White House more than a month ago, and later at a news conference in Chicago.

The president-elect said it is important that domestic carmakers survive the current crisis, although he accused the industry's executives of taking a "head in the sand approach" that has prevented their companies from becoming more competitive.

"Congress is doing the exact right thing by asking for a conditions-based assistance package that holds the industry's feet to the fire and gives the industry some short-term assistance," he said.

In addition to the policy issues, Obama avoided a direct answer when asked whether he has quit cigarettes as he prepares to move into a no-smoking White House.

"I have done a terrific job, under the circumstances, of making myself much healthier. And I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House," he said.

Obama called the news conference to introduce retired Gen Eric Shinseki as his choice to head the Veterans Affairs Department. Shinseki, who was a four-star general, was forced into retirement five years ago by the Bush administration after saying the president's plans to invade Iraq required more troops.

Shinseki pledged to build a "smooth, error-free, no-fail benefits-assured transition" back to civilian life for veterans.

Twice in the opening moments of the NBC interview, the president-elect said the economic situation "is going to get worse before it gets better," an unspoken plea with voters to have patience as the incoming administration tries to grapple with the issue.

He announced plans on Saturday for the largest public works spending programme since the creation of the interstate highway system a half-century ago, although he said aides are still debating among themselves how much it should cost.

"What we need to do is examine, what are the projects where we're going to get the most bang for the buck? How are we going to make sure taxpayers are protected? You know, the days of just pork coming out of Congress as a strategy, those days are over," he said.

Some lawmakers have mentioned an economic aid plan in the range of US$500 billion (RM1.8 trillion) or higher, and Democratic leaders say they hope to have legislation ready soon after Jan 20.

The economic indicators have darkened since Obama's election, and Friday's report that 533,000 jobs were lost in November was the worst performance in more than 30 years. Unemployment stands at 6.7 per cent, retailers are reporting weak holiday sales and the credit markets have yet to recover from the freeze that led Congress to approve a US$700 billion bailout before the election.

Turning to foreign policy, the president-elect sidestepped a question about the pace of a troop withdrawal from Iraq, saying he would direct US generals to come up with a plan "for a responsible drawdown." He said in the campaign he wanted most US troops withdrawn within 16 months, but did not say then, nor has he now, how large a deployment should be left behind.

"We are going to maintain a large enough force in the region to assure that our civilian troops or our civilian personnel and our embassies are protected, to make sure that we can ferret out any remaining terrorist activity in the region" and providing training support for Iraqi personnel.

He did not respond directly when asked whether he believes India should have the right to pursue terrorist targets inside Pakistan in the wake of the deadly attacks in Mumbai. He also said he wants to "reset US-Russian relations" following the Bush era.

"They are increasingly assertive and when it comes to Georgia and their threats against their neighbouring countries I think they've been acting in a way that's contrary to international norms," he said of Kremlin leaders.

The president-elect declined to comment on the possible appointment of Caroline Kennedy to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's seat in the Senate. Obama tapped Clinton recently as his secretary of state. — AP

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The DMAM Awards

Today, i attended an awards ceremony for direct marketing campaigns, which i was quite eager to attend since ive heard of it but never attended. So you know, very curious. And the invite said its the most prestigious something something... awards ceremony.

I recall the last 3 advertising award ceremonies i attended - 2 MSAs & 1 Effies, it was all prestigious and grand, ppl came in suites, like everyone - if you come in a long sleeve shirt, then you're a fucking china man no know how to dressie.

Anyway, so i came to the office all dressed up with a coat and tie hanging in my car this morning, but i was advised not to overdress at the ceremony as its "DMAM"... hmmm fucking fishy.

So i went just with my long sleeve shirt, still worried ill be underdressed (cos i've had a bad experience once) but then less worried coz the guy who went with me was wearing snickers so at least i can still stand behind him.. AHAHHA

ANYWAY...... when i arrived i knew i was quite safe... some of the boys.. no alot of them were wearing tshirts with worn off jeans and unbranded snickers.

Now, the food - we had rice which had alot of grains stuck together. The kind you need to break with your fork. We had food in the middle - 5 kinds and all very little in quantity everyone didnt have enough to eat because they only served us dinner at 9:45PM and because we were incredibly starving - otherwise we would have skipped.

The varieties - unfresh prawn masak merah, dry rendang beef, fried pineapple, sweet and sour cold storage fish fillet.

The award categories were also the strangest. They had like:
- Best direct email marketing campaign - flat email
- Best direct email marketing campaign - dimensional email
- Best direct email marketing campaign -blast to less than 5,000
- Best direct email marketing campaign -blast to less than 1,000

Some categories had like 3 merit awards and 3 bronze awards... but no silver and gold.. WTF

When an agency wins, they all fuckin bang their metal forks, spoons, knives or whatever metal cutlery they have can find on the tray in the middle (which served food) which is also metal. its like hundreds of pencil-huge nails falling on a metal floor... fucking barbaric.

And they all jump in the air and scream like bitches and punch their hands all around and like fucking just won a bentley or something

And the award winners were those boys i saw on my way in... t shirt, old jeans, snickers, untidy long hair....

And i will not talk about who presented the awards.

I sound really gay but i think i just had to document this.

Friday, December 5, 2008

More questions raised over ValueCap’s RM5b injection

The DAP said today Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s explanation that the injection of RM5 billion from the Employees Provident Fund into ValueCap Sdn Bhd’s investment fund would not be used for bailouts has raised more questions.

"With so many credible foreign and local investment and fund managers with extensive experience in the local markets, why is it that the Government is not directing funds to these institutions to 'value invest'?" asked the party’s publicity secretary Tony Pua in a statement.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP also questioned why ValueCap, which has been unable to repay a bond amounting to RM5.1 billion that expires in March next year, was being given an additional RM5 billion.

"ValueCap is set to become one of the rare fund management companies in the world which invests with nearly 100 per cent of its investment capital sourced from loans and not from investors," said Pua.

He said the government's move to guarantee the loan to ValueCap means taxpayers would have to bear the losses should the company fail to repay EPF.

"This measure will also create a moral hazard situation whereby the fund managers will likely adopt a high-risk investment strategy since there is no ‘downside’ to the investment as the government will bail them out in the event of failure," said Pua.

He urged Najib, who is also Finance Minister, to reverse the decision to inject the RM5 billion and to pressure the EPF investment board to improve its investment returns.

Yesterday Najib gave an assurance that the allocation for ValueCap would not be used to bail out politically connected individuals or government-linked companies.

"I wish to give a categorical assurance that ValueCap will be used for value investing and will not be used to bail out anyone," he reportedly said.

- The Malaysian Insider

Petrol price should be way below RM1.90 / litre. We are paying the govt fuel tax

Dec 4 - Oil prices sank to fresh 3-year lows today in Asia as more bleak news from the world's largest economy signalled that crude could tumble below US$40 (RM144.00) by the end of the year.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery was down US$1.19 cents to US$45.60 a barrel - the lowest since closing at US$45.42 on Feb. 10, 2005 - in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midafternoon in Singapore. The contract fell 17 cents overnight to settle at US$46.79.

"You could see prices testing US$40 by the end of the year because the economic data is really ugly at the moment," said Christoffer Moltke-Leth, head of sales trading at Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore. "Demand destruction is still very much the concern."

Oil prices have tumbled about 69 percent since peaking at US$147.27 in July.

Investors were dismayed at more poor economic news from the U.S. The Institute for Supply Management said yesterday its services sector index fell to 37.3 in November from 44.4 in October. The reading was significantly lower than the 42 the market expected.

The Labour Department reported that productivity rose at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the July-September quarter, down from a 3.6 percent growth rate in the second quarter.

Investors took little solace from a report showing US crude inventories fell last week. For the week ended Nov. 28, crude inventories fell by 400,000 barrels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said.

Analysts had expected a boost of 2 million barrels, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

"People are really looking at economic figures right now and how bad a shape the world is in," Moltke-Leth said.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has signaled it plans to lower output quotas at a Dec. 17 meeting, adding to a production cut of 1.5 million barrels a day in October.

Analysts are sceptical that an output reduction by OPEC can reverse the fall in the prices.

"I don't think it will have a major impact in the near term," Moltke-Leth said. "However, low prices will increasingly lead drilling and exploration projects to be postponed or canceled, so supply will become a concern in the medium term."

In other Nymex trading, gasoline futures fell 3.15 cents to US$1.01 a gallon. Heating oil dropped 2.45 cents to US$1.56 a gallon while natural gas for January delivery was steady at 6.35 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, January Brent crude fell US$1.39 to US$44.05 on the ICE Futures exchange. - AP